The Playlist • Walter Barnes & his Royal Creolians (1929)

MSP_bwk-4480_C-3941

The Royal Creolians were a fixture at the Chicago Cotton Club in the late 1920s. The band was led by Walter Barnes, a diminutive saxophonist with an oversized ego, who was dubbed “The Midget Maestro” by The Chicago Defender. Barnes also took over Dave Peyton’s “Musical Bunch” column in the Defender in the late 1920s, and he continued to write for that paper for the next  decade. His columns are a treasure-trove of tour listings, biographical tidbits, and band personnel changes, often with a healthy dose of self-promotion tossed in.

In the off-seasons, the Royal Creolians toured widely. Like many other black bands in the 1920s, one of their stop-overs was Denver, which probably explains why these fairly scarce records have turned up here surprisingly often over the years. (Lest anyone be tempted to pack their bags for Colorado, a quick reality-check: The state was a goldmine for rare and unusual records of all kinds when we arrived here 25 years ago, but those days are long-gone. You might still find an occasional rare gem with some persistence and luck, but the unexpectedly rich pickings we enjoyed in the 1990s are pretty much just a memory.)

The 1928–1929 Brunswick sessions comprise Barnes’ total recorded output. After the Depression hit, he spent much of his time touring the Southern states, eventually renaming the band Walter Barnes and his Kings of Swing. He died in Natchez, Mississippi, on April 23, 1940, at age thirty-four, in a dance-hall fire that claimed 209 lives. His adventures on the road, and his tragic end, are beautifully recounted in The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Road to Rock ’n’ Roll, by Preston Lauterbach (W. W. Norton, 2011) — a great read.

 

WALTER BARNES & HIS ROYAL CREOLIANS: Buffalo Rhythm

Chicago: February 27, 1929
Brunswick 7072 (mx. C 3009 – )

 

WALTER BARNES & HIS ROYAL CREOLIANS: Third Rail

Chicago: February 27, 1929
Brunswick 7072 (mx. C 3010 – )

 

WALTER BARNES & HIS ROYAL CREOLIANS (with uncredited vocalist): Birmingham Bertha

Chicago: July 25, 1929
Brunswick 4480 (mx. C 3942 – )
Identification of May Alix as the vocalist in some discographies is based on aural evidence; the vocalist is not credited in the Brunswick files or on the labels. An alternate version (mx. C 3942 – G) was recorded without vocal, for export to Germany.

 

WALTER BARNES & HIS ROYAL CREOLIANS: If You’re Thinking of Me (When I’m Thinking of You)

Chicago: July 25, 1929
Brunswick 4480 (mx. C 3941 – )

___________________

Three takes were recorded for each selection (two, in the case of C 3941); the selected takes are not indicated in the Brunswick files or on the pressings. At least two takes of C 3010 are known to have been issued, although the differences are rather insignificant. Personnel listed for these records in Jazz Records and other discographies are undocumented; they are not from the Brunswick files.